WASHINGTON — President Trump's former national security adviser H.R. McMaster is among several high-profile public figures set to join a fellowship program at the University of Pennsylvania, linking him with the city's academic community and with wider public events in Philadelphia.
Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, ex-Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent, and President Barack Obama's former national security adviser Susan Rice are among eight others who will join a fellowship program at Penn's Perry World House for the coming academic year.
Together, the group includes people who have had front-row seats to some of the most contentious issues of recent times. Each will work with Penn academics and give public presentations as part of Perry World House, which focuses on global affairs.
McMaster, a Philadelphia native and retired Army three-star general, is the name with perhaps the widest recent profile, having left the Trump administration in March. He is expected to guest-teach some classes on foreign policy and on international law, work with faculty who focus on national security, and deliver a public keynote speech.
McMaster, who grew up in Roxborough, said he hoped to study, think, and write about "what are essentially new battleground or contested spaces," such as Russian propaganda attacks meant to undermine public trust, and economic aggression from competitors like China.
"We have to put our best minds to work on how to advance and protect our interests for a new era," he said in an interview.
Calderon, the Mexican president from 2006 to 2012, arrives as Trump has tried to reset America's relationship with its neighbors, by both tightening border laws and reworking trade agreements.
"No doubt about it, the relationship has become more complicated," Calderon said in a telephone interview. "It's quite important for the people on both sides of the border to learn a little bit more about what is happening with their neighbors."
Calderon offered mixed reviews of the preliminary agreement between the U.S. and Mexico to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"It's positive to know that there will be some kind of continuations," he said, but added that he needs to see more details to determine how the deal could affect both countries.
He worried that Canada is not part of the tentative deal, though talks with that country's representatives are ongoing.
"I'm surprised that Canada was left aside. I would prefer to see a trilateral negotiation," Calderon said. "Honestly, I don't understand very well that part."
He also warned that requirements to increase wages for Mexican autoworkers could lead to more automation and job losses, potentially sparking more immigration to the U.S.
Dent, of Allentown, was a leading moderate voice in the House and one of the few Republicans who openly criticized Trump.
William Burke-White, director of the Perry World House, said the fellows will help Penn faculty and students obtain real-world input on their work. He also hoped the fellows could promote Penn's academic work and studies to policymakers.
He said the fellows would also participate in public discussions and events on other local campuses.
"They bring the global home to Philadelphia, but they also help Penn faculty and students think about global issues," Burke-White said.